Gowanus Canal gets a facelift

Gowanus Canal gets a facelift
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

It was like putting lipstick on a pig, but smellier.

Dozens of volunteer artists descended on a massive, graffitied wall just steps away from the fetid Gowanus Canal and transformed the unloved cinder blocks into a vibrant mural. Organizers say the fruits and vegetables in their painted scene will liven up the canal-side Carroll Gardens area blighted by the recurrent stink of raw sewage and the deadly industrial sludge that have garnered the waterway a Superfund designation.

“The mural is all about life and vitality set against this highly contaminated canal, which is a place where fish go to die,” said Clinton Hill artist Ruth Hofheimer.

Hofheimer approached the Gowanus Canal Conservancy, a group whose aim is to spruce up the 1.8-mile cesspool, with a design for the mural.

The conservancy found a warm reception for the idea with concrete factory owner John Quadrozzi, Jr. and a paint-by-the-numbers scheme allowed 60 helpers to cover the exterior wall of a Huntington Street concrete plant with as many gallons of donated paint.

Helping out: Jacqui Oren of New Jersey and Hans Hesselein of the Gowanus Canal Conservancy helped paint a massive mural of fruits and vegetables on a bleak concrete wall outside of a concrete plant on Huntington Street on July 27.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

The resulting mural is a cornucopia of watermelons, blueberries, cantaloupes, and avocados. Kale, a gentrified Brooklyn fave, makes an appearance, too.

Quadrozzi said that the block — which is adjacent to the canal — has been a dumping ground for years and that the presence of the vibrant fresco breathes new life onto the industrial street.

“It was dark and desolate and quiet,” Quadrozzi said. “The mural will brighten it up.”

The mural painting was a part of the canal conservancy’s monthly volunteer event, which is held every month from March through November. Hofheimer will be adding final touches to the fresco over the next three weeks.

Quadrozzi’s company recently paid a reported $60,000 to settle fines for improperly securing hazardous waste at his Gowanus Bay Terminal in Red Hook.

Paint transformation: About 60 volunteers painted a massive 320-foot-long mural of fruits and vegetables on a concrete wall on Huntington Street near the foul Gowanus Canal on July 27.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Reach reporter Natalie Musumeci at [email protected] or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her at twitter.com/souleddout.